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From The Boiler Room: Series Or Parallel Recording


Series-ParallelSo, here I am with good intentions and a bucketful of songs, (well, a “handful” didn’t seem quite enough, does it?).  What next, (or, what is actually on my mind, should that be “which” next)?  In the past, I’ve very much worked on my songs in series rather than in parallel – starting and finishing one song before moving on to the next.  That was fine when I was working with Andrew, as we treated each song very much as an individual creation and tried to record it in the most appropriate style for itself, with little or no regard for how it sat stylistically with the other songs we recorded, (although the former Mrs Edmonds did once comment that no matter what we wrote, it always sounded like us – I’m pretty sure she meant it as a compliment).

But now I’m trying to record not just one song, but several, and I want them to be a coherent group that sound like they belong together, which means trying to introduce common elements across them as well as allowing each song to have an arrangement that makes it different from the rest.  There is always a temptation when working on a project to reapply what you’ve learnt by the end to what you did at the beginning, which can result in a never-ending cycle of refining and improving – but the object here is to get the music made and Finish MY Song[s].  Working in series opens that temptation up on a big scale, as what you learn on the last song [of the album] can lead you to want to unpick a finished mix to redo some parts or alter an arrangement, after which you have to mix the song again… and possibly again… and again.

When I was programming the parts for the backing tracks we used in Freeway, I ended up programming a lot of the drum tracks in batches and the combined effect of concentrating on one aspect of the songs [almost] to the exclusion of everything else definitely made me better at it.  Admittedly, I was just recreating what had gone before with the covers we played, but it did sharpen my programming chops when it came to creating the drum parts for our own material.  There’s also the advantage that focusing all your efforts on one aspect of the arrangements at a time hones your skills and, once you’re up to speed on the first couple of tracks, the time taken to create that aspect of the song for later songs is taken up with creative thinking, not trying to remember just how you access a particular feature or function in your DAW

Of course, this is nothing new.  Most of the albums recorded in the last 50 years have been done in parallel, but mainly that’s because they had to be.  We have seen some bands record drums in one studio, guitars in another, holiday at a third in the Caribbean, but even so, that’s parallel recording, just on a global scale!  I’m taking the step from single song recording and venturing into the choppier seas of album recording, but working as a “small, mobile, intelligent unit”, to quote Robert Fripp, I have the luxury of deciding if that that’s how I want to work.

Certainly, the downside is that “parallel” recording will bring together all the boring bits at one time, (VariAudio and comp the backing vocals for 12 songs, anyone?  The road to madness awaits…), but I’m hoping that the honing of the skills I talked about will stop me getting bogged down too much.  It seems to me that there are a lot of advantages in parallel recording, even if I won’t see a finished song until they start to arrive one after another, so that’s the way I’m going to go.

photo credit: rfranklinaz via photopin cc

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